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ICYMI: “’We are not criminals’: Fight by Liberians to stay in the U.S. goes to federal court”

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Wind-Down Date for Liberian DED Holders: March 30, 2020

On Wednesday, Liberian Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) holders and allies rallied in Worcester, MA to support plaintiffs in the African Communities Together v. Trump lawsuit, brought by The UndocuBlack Network and African Communities Together. Steph Solis highlights the event that was held in support of Liberian DED holders facing the Trump administration’s efforts head on in court to either force them into the shadows or face separation from their families and livelihoods cultivated here in the U.S.

 Solis’ reporting is excerpted below and available online here:

A federal court judge in Worcester will hear from civil rights lawyers and the Trump administration Wednesday on whether to dismiss a lawsuit challenging the government’s decision to terminate relief from deportation for Liberians living in the U.S.

The lawsuit, filed in March, challenges the Trump administration’s decision to terminate Deferred Enforced Departure. The relief offers some 4,000 Liberians relief from deportation, the lawsuit states.

“I think, in general, folks don’t understand what being in limbo means,” said Patrice Lawrence, co-director of UndocuBlack Network, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit. “People think if this is a humanitarian protection, there should be some sort of end point or permanence for folks, but that doesn’t really exist.”

Dozens of Liberian immigrants, loved ones and immigrant rights advocates crowded outside the U.S. District Court building in Worcester calling for permanent protections for DED holders, many who have lived in the country for two decades.

… Othello Dennis, a case manager at Catholic Charities, said he has lived in the U.S. for more than 19 years and has DED. He has twin boys, both who are 10, and works with other children through the Angels Net Foundation.

“We are working in the interest of the country, to lift the country up,” said Dennis, 62, of Worcester. “We are not criminals.”

… Attorneys representing those with DED say that ending the relief means Liberians would have to choose between living in the shadows or returning to a country where they’re not safe, leaving behind their U.S.-citizen children.

A federal judge’s order extended protections for immigrants with Temporary Protected Status as their lawsuits move through the courts, but explaining that to employers and government officials can prove tricky.

Ami Sumareh, 20, told MassLive on Wednesday that if her mother is deported to Liberia, she will have to drop out of college and take care of her 12-year-old brother.

“Obviously, I wouldn’t want him to fall into a foster care system, and subsequently I would have to drop my schooling for the time being,” said Sumareh, who studies graphic design at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

Dennis, the father of two in Worcester, said his sons wanted to join him in federal court on Wednesday.

“I said, ‘no, you go to school,’” he told MassLive. “One wants to be a lawyer, and another wants to be a doctor.”